Eight hours hunched in front of a computer screen was definitely not conducive to the health of her already-strained back muscles, Yoake thought as she stretched, wincing as several pops indicated the realigning of several vertebrae in her spine. At last she was getting somewhere, though she really didn't want to be working on her day off. Deciding that she'd made enough progress for now, she saved the file, shut down her laptop, and closed down the screen, then placed it back on her desk. Leaning both hands and the majority of her weight on her desk, she closed her eyes, took a deep breath, then let it out fast. As she released the pent-up tension, her shoulders relaxed, her face smoothed out, and her entire posture softened, before her eyes opened. Gone was the dreamer's faraway, hazy look. In its place clarity shone, enhancing the core of strength now revealed. It wasn't just her eyes though, she now looked about five years younger than before.

She walked into the bathroom and gingerly slipped out her contacts lenses, revealing stunning dark violet eyes. She cleaned them, set them in their case, and walked back into her bedroom. There, she changed from her charcoal grey suit into classy, yet casual clothes, trading her black heels for a pair of soft leather flats, and let her dark hair out of its bun. Sighing in relief, she flopped onto the bed. While it was fun to be someone else, maintaining Yoake's carefree, slightly airheaded persona drained her more than she cared to admit. She simply didn't like to wear a mask all of the time. Not that she had to; rarely did she ever meet any of her co-workers outside of work, and when she did, she easily slipped her mask back on.

But still, there was a time and place for Yoake and here in her home, her safe haven, was not it. Here, she could let the mask slip off, and just be herself. Not 30-year-old Matsumoto Yoake, member of the Yggdrasil work force, with a Doctorate in Engineering, and two Master's in Business and Computer Science, no siblings, no parents, no family. Here, she could once more be 24-year-old Akikawa Shinonome, master martial artist, amateur artist, computer whiz, genius hacker, eldest daughter and middle child of Akikawa Jushiro, president of the Akikawa financial clique, supplier of various businesses worldwide.

Thinking of her family reminded Shinonome of how she'd gotten into this predicament in the first place. Her elder brother, Kohaku, had stated one evening that he could get better grades than her in college. She'd challenged him to prove it, and the bet had become. It took eight grueling years to get her doctorate, while at the same time working on her two Master's degrees. Nevertheless, she'd graduated first in her year, beating her brother by a slim margin. Neither had relied on any sort of financial help from their father, but Shinonome had been lucky enough to get two scholarships that paid for the cost of her schooling, and most of her rent and food as well.

Shortly after Yoake had graduated, just before Shinonome's 24th birthday, she was approached by Kureshima Takatora with a job offer. When he'd mentioned that Yggdrasil was headquartered in Zawame City, a place that she hadn't been in over fifteen years, she leaped at the chance to see her old hometown. And here she was.

Her stomach grumbled, bringing Shinonome out of her reverie. Turning over, she was shocked to see that it was about one in the afternoon.

"Considering that I've had nothing to eat since about five this morning, no wonder I'm hungry," she said, getting up. "I'd better make lunch."

Walking out into the kitchen, she opened up the refrigerator, and saw she had leftovers from dinner a couple nights ago, as well as all the ingredients for making makizushi.

"Makizushi again?" the voice of Kureshima Takatora echoed in her head. "Don't you eat anything else?"

Shinonome frowned. He'd said that at the beginning of last week, and yet those words still bothered her twelve days later. What was wrong with her? Why wasn't she just brushing it off? Shaking her head, she pulled out the leftovers and was getting ready to eat when an old conversation echoed in her head;

"You eat a lot of makizushi. Why?"

"It's the only thing I can make myself, and it's fast and easy to make. I don't want to inconvenience the cook by asking her to make lunch for me when she's busy making it it for my parents and their business associates, not to mention my brother. So I make makizushi."


"Inago…" she murmured, setting her chopsticks down. She hadn't thought of her childhood playmate in years. Why start now? Was it Kureshima-san's comment about her habit of eating makizushi that had brought thoughts of him back? As she once more picked up her chopsticks, a revelation struck. Takatora was Inago.

"No way," she murmured. "It can't be!" As she sorted through her memories and began to compare the two however, she discovered that it was true. Her boss was her childhood friend. Chuckling to herself, Shinonome ate her meal with gusto, before picking up her sketch book. She had an idea for a new picture.

DISCLAIMER: I DO NOT OWN KR GAIM! Ok, now that we got that out of the way...

Inago is Japanese for Rice Grasshopper. Review please?